The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Bakuman 2

Title: Bakuman 2
Genre: Drama/Romance
Company: J.C. Staff
Format: 25 episodes
Dates: 1 Oct 2011 – 24 Mar 2012

Synopsis: After finally getting a serialization for the first time, Mashiro and Takagi get the bombshell that instead of Hattori, who had helped them get to where they are, they will be working with Miura Gorou, a new editor, instead. While Miura seems enthusiastic enough, his approach conflicts with the duo’s methods, causing them to question whether they can actually work with him. Coupled with the challenges of keeping up with a running serialization for the first time, and facing stiff competition from their rivals for the readers’ weekly votes, how much further does Ashirogi Muto have to go to achieve their dreams?

Stylistic shift: Less shoujo romance pretensions, more straightforward shounen plot.
Story: Frustrating for the most part, but realistically so.
Pacing: Tighter and more focused.
Characters: Almost all of them get a lot more development, for better or for worse.
Ending: Concludes on a positive note… but it isn’t over.

Picking up where the first season of Bakuman left off, Bakuman 2 continues the anime adaptation of a manga by the author-artist team behind Death Note about an author-artist team working to make a manga good enough to get an anime adaptation (hope your heads didn’t go boom this time). The sequel delves more into the manga production process this time around — as opposed to its predecessor’s depiction of the road to getting a serialization — and benefits greatly in many ways from the shift in the plot’s focus, although with the shift comes its own issues.

Among followers of the original source manga and/or the anime, the consensus is that the Bakuman franchise is at its best when portraying the process of manga making instead of dwelling on what many consider the naïve, unrealistic presentation of the Mashiro-Azuki romance. This is especially true in the second season, which compared to its predecessor focuses more on the former and less on the latter, thus playing much more to the series’ strengths. The fact that Kasai Ken’ichi also stopped emphasizing the series as a shoujo romance and reverted to the franchise’s roots as a meta portrayal of the manga industry through shounen-flavoured lens certainly helps the pacing of the second season, keeping the story more suspenseful and interesting overall.

On the other hand, the sequel suffers from the misfortune of having to cover what is now known as one of the most notoriously frustrating arcs of the Bakuman franchise. While the Detective TRAP arc didn’t get the series off to the best start, culminating in a plot where rising tensions on all sides start overriding logic in the characters’ actions, the typical ‘shounen logic’ nature of the arc is still easier to swallow than the following Tanto arc, where the Ashirogi Muto duo gets manipulated by their overzealous newbie editor into wasting their talents on an unsuitable genre. While it is incredibly frustrating to watch the duo struggling to work with someone incapable of bringing out their full potential, I personally thought it was a good take on the issue of professional frustration, a problem many people would have faced in real life. Nevertheless, it still doesn’t make for enjoyable viewing, and is likely to mar the viewing experience for a significant portion of the series.

Still, the frustration that Mashiro and Takagi (as well as the audience) goes through is also what makes them grow as characters. While they remain very much shounen heroes, prone to the pigheadedness that is a trait of their kind, they grow with their experiences as well. Azuki manages to become more of a character in what little screentime she gets, and Kaya almost redeems herself from the kitchen-dwelling cheerleader stereotype she had become. The supporting characters also grow more relatable over the course of the story (with perhaps a couple of exceptions), and come to be a defining aspect of Ashirogi Muto’s journey.

For those frustrated by the Tanto arc, the final arc will be something of a relief, ending on an optimistic note even though the story is yet to be continued in an upcoming third season. Nevertheless, the growth of the characters and the increased focus on the interesting manga production process mitigates the frustration somewhat, and gives new hope that J.C. Staff‘s upcoming third season of the Bakuman franchise will continue to do justice to Ohba Tsugumi‘s and Obata Takeshi‘s second Shounen Jump hit.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Ascaloth

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